From NO to YES.

Today I had to say some really difficult “No’s.” I work at a school so you might thing it has something to do with my kids, but it didn’t.

This week ALL of the 26 Quisqueya Christian School students in the class of 2K15 are off on their senior trip in Florida. My classes here are pretty light, just me and one young man in sewing and me and 4 Juniors in Sign Language. It’s calm.

But today I didn’t have to say NO to a silly request from a senior or some other student. Today two young Haitian men, men who I am sure are talented and have many skills-showed up at QCS. They were just boys when I met them a few years ago, they were in a youth program that was run by one of my past organizations. Since then, not a week goes by that I don’t get a phone call from some one asking me for a job or school or money. The answer is always NO.

I am not sure how, but today they found me. They showed up here at QCS and I still had to tell them No. I hate it. It’s so unfair. Their lives are hard.

I talked to them for ten minutes or so and told them I don’t have a job for them as a teacher or a translator, a metal worker or making beads, I don’t have job for them as drivers or washing clothes or anything else.

It was heartbreaking. Saying NO never gets easier. I walked them out and they waved goodbye. I turned, went into my house, sat down in my chair and cried. I cried out to Jesus, because there is simply nothing I can do. I struggled to see the point of the last five years here. My heart breaks for those young boys, but there is nothing I can do.

And tonight I am back in my chair crying.

My seniors are on their senior trip in Florida. They have been at the HEART Missionary Training Institute since Sunday and tonight as I clicked through the pictures on face book I cried.

This afternoon things felt so helpless, but tonight I am so proud. I looked at the picture of the 26 students that make up our senior class and I am proud. They are the future. They are the ones who will provide jobs, who will keep families together. They are Haiti.

I think about the breakthroughs that last years seniors had during this same trip and my heart screams for joy to think this years group is having a similar experience. I can not wait for them to return from this trip to hear all their stories and feelings and watch them process it. The next six weeks of school are going to FLY by and my emotions are all over the place.

I can not wait for them to return from college and process the impact they can make on their country-to turn my NO into a YES.

Thank you Jesus for helping me to look to you. To keep going when my heart feels a NO. Thank you for meeting me, even when I am blinded to you. Thank you for putting me exactly where you have me.

Quisqueya Christian School Class of 2K15

Quisqueya Christian School Class of 2K15

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Hi. I still think about you.

Two post in one day, I know.. .it’s a lot. Especially from the sporadic blogger who goes months with nothing and then, BAM, two in one day.

Tonight is Camp Out here at Quisqueya and being the Student Activities Director, I am sort of in charge/obligated to be here all night. My Student Council has done so much work, an amazing job planning, its going to be a really fun night and I am looking forward to it (except for the pressure of the whole being in charge/responsible-for-everything-that-could-go-wrong-thing). I really wanted to blog about camp out, after camp out, but I was taking a minute and found myself in my lazy chair in my apartment reading this book someone borrowed me. This book that had some hype among our teens, this book that I am either reading at such a perfect time or it was a totally terrible decision to pick it up at all.

I’m reading “The Fault in our Stars” by John Green, which is a quick read and I have to say I am enjoying it. I have heard great reviews. Its about girl with cancer, terminal cancer, who meets boy in cancer remission.

Today is one of those days that crept up on me, one of those days that all the sudden out of no where is here. Every year on March 20th I write some post about Todd. On this day, the anniversary of day he lost his battle with cancer. This day for the last few years has sucked.

But today didn’t suck when I woke up. I am sort of jazzed for the kids and I think its going to be a great Camp Out. Its sort of perfect actually, they have a bon fire planned and so many memories I have of Todd are sitting around a bon fire. I’m finding this year on this 5th anniversary I am not so much sad, I’m more just flooded with memories. Some really good ones and some well Todd ones. As I’m sitting in my chair reading this book about cancer and terminal illness the words resonate with me.

“The thing about dead people,” he said, and the stopped himself. “The thing is you sound like a bastard if you don’t romanticize them, but the truth is…complicated, I guess. Like, you are familiar with the trope of the stoic and determined cancer victim who heroically fights her cancer with inhuman strength and never complains or stops smiling even at the very end, etcetera?”

Please don’t hear me say that Todd was not heroic, he fought a hard battle and lost and it sucked. But he complained, as he should have, cancer sort of gives you that right. I remember the time I saw him cry because it hurt and the time I was there when he  was doing his daily injection of Interferon treatment into his own leg. He was tough and he fought. And he lost. As I remember him and try to honor his memory, I feel a need to remember him as he was. Tough and kind, sort of a grump-a little bit mean even, sly and a big giant baby at times (pre and post cancer), loving and strong. He had this power to make me love and forgive him with just a smile, that smirk I can still see when I close my eyes.

I can still see your face, there are certain smells that stop me in my tracks. You are so missed and so loved by so many. It might be cliche, but I know you’re in heaven smiling down, shining on us all. Today I just want to say Hi. To tell you, I still think about you. This picture is a moment frozen in time. The rest of us don’t look quite the same, we have all traveled down different paths, paths we never could have foreseen since it was taken. But we have all taken you with us. We keep you in our hearts.

Z group

Mission Monday

This past weekend I had some friends come in on a mission trip. Four of them were on a team I led back in 2012 and whenever they come I always try to spend some time with them. This year, two of those people brought a team from their church and THEY led their team! I used a “Mission Day” for work and spent all day Sunday and Monday with them. They came through their church, Servants Heart Fellowship in Peoria, Ill.

Team

The SHF team at lunch on Sunday!

I was nice to catch up and spend time serving along side old friends. We went out to the orphanage that was previously supported by an organization I worked for, but I fear no longer has any support aside of Servants Heart Fellowship (SHF). I am impressed with their dedication and resilience. It can be difficult to work with Orphanages and different organizations in Haiti, but if you are willing to take the time to pour into relationships, then you might run the risk of actually making a difference.

SHF pours into relationships. They pour into the brother/sister team who started the orphanage. A father who lost his wife and didn’t know how to care for his children. The sister who lives in the states and is doing her best to help our this father and  so many other fathers and mothers who find themselves alone. The pour into the hearts of children and teachers. The goal is not adoption, some times the goal is surviving. This “orphanage” is more of a school, a boarding school if you will. SHF is in it for the long hall. They are committed to relationships and partnering with a family who are making the most to survive-at best.

I had a great Mission Day and enjoyed loving on the kids with the rest of the team. It was nice to be a part of what they are doing. The men on the team made desks and the women did some really fun crafts and a vacation bible study during the week. I even got to step in use some of my super-power-teaching-skills (Because I happen to admire all teachers everywhere and think it’s sort of a super power to impact lives in a way teachers do) the day I was there. I also got a beauty treatment, some people color their hair, I prefer to have a team of specialists pluck the greys from my skull.

Beauty challenge

Beauty challenge

Thanks for letting me spend the day with you SHF! Missing you guys already!

Disclaimer: I know there are many books and opinions of how orphanages can and should be run. There are books and opinions on how missions can and should be run. Heck, there is a big book that tells us how life should be, but the truth is, sometimes we get it wrong. Sometimes we have days when we get it right and some times not so much. Opinions and views differ and although I appreciate those differences, I’m asking you….don’t rain on my parade! GREAT job SHF!!!

Teacher Appreciation Week!

This past week has been Teacher/Staff Appreciation Week here at Quisqueya. Being the Student Activities Coordinator and the Student Council Adviser, I was able to be in on all the behind the scenes work for this week. Normally the administration puts on a nice breakfast for us on Monday mornings, but this year there were demonstrations in Haiti and we did not have school. Tuesday was supposed to be cupcakes made for the teachers and staff by one of my seniors, but demonstrations continued into Tuesday and although we had school, Krysta was not able to make it in. She was busy baking away on Monday and that plan got postponed until Wednesday.

Tuesday started the week of with cards made for each teacher, faculty, and administrator here at QCS. My friend Elisa (the art teacher) was eager to help out with this feat for the second year in a row! A huge thank you to her and all of the elementary and high school art students for making such beautiful and thoughtful cards! This is secretly my favorite part of the week each year.

My favorite

My favorite

Wednesday Krysta blessed us with her wonderful baking skills. (Not that I’m bragging, but Krysta has already been accepted into Johnson and Wales, Culinary Institute of America, and Institute of Culinary Education). She is an amazing baker and I look forward to what she can accomplish with her gifts. Thank you Krysta for going above and beyond with this task. It was a hard choice between double chocolate cupcakes with chocolate frosting, carrot cake with cream cheese frosting and carrot shavings, and vanilla cupcakes with Oreo bottoms and vanilla/chocolate frosting and a marshmallow on top. It was a tough choice, but there were only enough for one per person.

It was just too hard to choose!

It was just too hard to choose!

Thursday my Student Council put together a very thoughtful gift for each of the teachers. QCS travel mugs filled with assorted candies and adorned with valentines day wrapping.

QCS Travel Mugs

QCS Travel Mugs

I also need to mention that in Chapel on both Wednesday (for High School) and Thursday (for Elementary School) Elisa did a beautiful mime with some Sign Language for the teachers. The song was about thanking them all for giving of their life and their time and as a result “I am a life that is changed.” It was a beautiful dedication from the students to the teachers and there was not a dry eye in the place. Especially when all of the elementary students joined in the miming at the end, turned to their teachers and thanked them for what they do. I might be crying as I type this recalling what a special moment it was, especially for me as the Sign Language teacher here.

Students signing to their teachers in Elementary Chapel.

Students signing to their teachers in Elementary Chapel.

Today I am missing the annual Ice Cream Celebration put on for the faculty and staff from the board. I fully plan on purchasing my own ice cream when I am in Florida this week for Carnival break to make up for my loss. Although perhaps the three cupcakes I ate on Wednesday (*Confession: I didn’t stick to the one per person rule) should be my compensation for missing out.

However, the seniors passed out their Valentines Day Roses this morning and I am enjoying seeing these gems of Gods creation on my desk all morning. My students really are thoughtful and gracious. They are giving and full of joy and I am so blessed to have them in my life.

Preparing Roses

Preparing Roses <3

I am the person who receives many emails from teachers and staff saying how much they feel appreciated this week. I get many emails that say “great job” and “keep up the good work,” but its not me. It’s those kids. Those same kids that make me a little crazy sometimes and might even be making me a little more like my mother each day. I really feel its important to let the students know how much we all appreciate their hard work and thoughtfulness. So I want to pass on the gratefulness and the appreciation this week. Thank you for all you guys did this week! You went above and beyond and I love you all! And I definitely definitely feel appreciated.

I couldn’t decide which pics of the Mime/Signed Performance to put in from High School Chapel so there are lots more below:

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1/2(ish) Marathon in Jacmel

I guess I am a little overdue in writing this, but as I was retelling the story of my recent half marathon here in Haiti to a friend she said “this sounds like it needs to be a blog post.” So here it is.

Me and a few other teachers at Quisqueya had been training for this race since October(ish). Every run seemed to be a “hill run”, even thought the training calendar said hill runs were only to be done once a week, but….This is Haiti. As the weeks went by the runs got longer and harder down here in the heat, oh and the hills, but we managed to get the miles in…most of them.

The last two weeks of training were going to be over the Christmas vacation which Jesse and I would be spending in Florida with his family. A trip that couldn’t come soon enough and didn’t last long enough. I was looking forward to some nice runs in a more mild climate, but still sunny Florida with my running pal, but…This is Haiti and two days before were to fly out to our fantastic holiday Jesse had a motorcycle accident, severely damaging his foot and taking him out of race contention.

The whole family

The whole family

Off I went in Florida, continuing my training, alone. However, I found myself continuously looking behind me because Florida has gators and snakes and I wasn’t really looking to make any new friends. Somehow I fit in some good runs, including my long ten miler,  where my running pal showed up with pretzels, water and lots of encouragement :)

We finished out vacation with lots of sun, time with family and trips to Target (unfortunately the Target trips had time restraints on them). The vacation had gone so great in fact that the night before we were set to return I remembered I had not yet registered for the race which was now three days away. Signing on I realized registration had been closed. Fortunately I sent off and email and got a quick response and a link to follow and sign up and all was well.

Enjoying beautiful sunsets every night with this guy <3

Enjoying beautiful sunsets every night with this guy <3

When the time came to pack our bags, well more of a organization of bags because I don’t think we ever unpacked, but such is the life; I definitely had some unsettled emotions about returning. Fortunately, I was greeted at the Port-au-Prince airport with one of my best and oldest friends, Leslie. She had arrived before us and was joining us for the race and a whirlwind weekend, in Friday, out Monday. After sufficient time waiting around in the parking lot for other staff to arrive, we finally made it home.

Jesse’s bike had been fixed by some miracle over the break and only had a few pieces of duc-tape and a missing mirror as mementos of the accident. The three of us dressed up and went out to The View for a nice dinner overlooking Haiti.

Driving through the hills.

The drive out to Jacmel was uneventful (thank you Lord again for keeping us safe), I took a page out of my mothers book and read to everyone from the back seat to avoid looking at the road carved through the mountains of Haiti that can plummet one to an early death, literally at every twist and turn. When we arrived at Jacmel and registered for the race, Leslie immediately ran into the Caribbean Ocean as she had traveled in from snowy New York City. And who can resist when a bunch of your friends are doing a race, so Jesse registered as well, injured (possibly broken) foot and all. What the heck, we drove all this way!

Leslie made it to the Caribbean Ocean

Pre race day binge, eating everything in sight!

Pre race day binge, eating everything in sight!

Leslie and I at the start of the race!

Jesse and I at the start

Jesse and I at the start.

I would love to say the race went off with out a hitch, but that would not only be boring, but would also be a blatant lie. Previous racers were upset for not getting paid their “race money”, even though they had illegally ran the race in the first place the previous year. They vowed to no allow this years race to take off. But we drove all that way so nothing was going to stop us (also the fact that we had no idea what was going on behind the scenes until after the race). All seemed to start ok, but then the scarcely “marked” course and lack of direction caused many wrong turns and frustration. About half way thorough I must have taken a wrong turn, ended up in town and took a moto taxi back to the point where I last got lost (altogether, about a mile and 30 minutes worth of confusion), I promised my driver just payment of 100 GDE if he showed up at the beach in an hour and was on my way.

At this point I was so frustrated between looking down at the road to avoid tripping or twisting my ankle and looking up to search for race signs that had turned over in the wind or fallen down all together, because who knew one piece of scotch tape probably wouldn’t hold up on a dusty tree and piece of cactus. But we drove all that way so I kept going.

Some way out, my friend Miquette, who I knew should have been WAY ahead of me, showed up behind me. She had also gotten lost. Ughh. At least she had been running with Jesse who was now with me :). Her training and strength drove her to continue hard and Jesse and I decided to walk a bit in an unsuccessful effort to regain feeling in our hips that was not only excoriating pain, but possibly also blinding. Leslie however had a great race and came back to see us at the end and make sure we found our way and eventually we did. I finished somewhere around 14 minutes and Jesse and Miquette did 17 or so…

We may have been lost along the way, but in the end, we finished together <3

We may have been lost along the way, but in the end, we finished together <3

At the finish we found out the race director was being detained in jail, the people who did the full marathon (most of which also got lost) had rocks thrown at them in protest, but at least there were coconuts and cold water. We snapped a few pics, got a few apologies and were out of there.

We did it!

I was furious when it all first happened and clearly during the race, but the whole thing is sort of making its way behind me. I am glad I did it, we did get a free entry into next years race, but I am also glad it’s over.

Most of our group from Quisqueya.

Most of our group from Quisqueya.

Returning to our hotel we packed up, refueled with lunch and fresh juice and set out to hike to Bassin Blue, because we drove all this way, and its beautiful.

Leslie had a great trip and I am so excited I got to share this gem of an Island with her. I was a little frustrated with the race, but…This is Haiti and she had a blast. It was an event to remember for sure.

 

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Bassin Blue

Bassin Blue

 

Death. Life. Run.

Time has really got away from me. There are 16 days left in 2014 and this is only my third post of the year! I just might have to resolve to do better at blogging in the new year!

I have been running a lot lately. The last time I trained for a half marathon was 2010; I was living in America and I was not a believer, well not a follower at least. The last time I trained for a half marathon I was running with the Team in Training and raising money towards cancer research. I ran for Todd, a piece of my heart who lost his battle with cancer.

This time around training has been a bit different.

I am training on the trash covered streets of Port-au-Prince, Haiti as opposed to the snow covered streets of Rochester, New York.

I am training sporadically, depending on time and heat and where the latest riots are taking place as opposed to the regimented group training I remember from 2010.

And this time, I am running for life, not death.

I am again running with a group, or more for a group. This time I am running for TeacHaiti, a non profit in Haiti, a school started by my good friend, Miquette McMahon. A group of us are running to raise money for TeacHaiti.

This time I am running for education, for life.

Since moving to Haiti life has changed me. I have stumbled across many organizations here that breath life into not only the people of this country, but also those of us who have come to call it home. So many of them who are involved in education in one way or another.

Some organizations have taught me exactly what I don’t want to be involved in, while others have shown me how to live.

I am running for education.

Education is knowing and loving (and being immensely loved by) the midwives at Heartline Haiti, who have taught me how to be a better woman, who have so much love and affection for the women of Haiti, the mommas and essentially the future. The midwives who educate women on breast feeding, caring for a new infant and even contraceptives and the rights we have as women, as humans.  Education is learning I have value.

Education is what I do as a teacher at Quisqueya Christian School. It is standing in front of my classroom in my Senior Transitions class, in front of my seniors and tell them to stand up against peer pressure. Not to be the norm, but to be the change. To stand firm in your faith, to go out of your way to love, to forgive and to live. It is the education I am gaining from knowing them, teaching them; from loving them. Education is seeking after wisdom.

“My mouth will speak words of wisdom; the meditation of my heart will give you understanding.” Psalm 49:3

Education is breaking the cycle of poverty. It’s knowing there is something better out there, something more. It is having a dream, wanting a better life-a better life for yourself, a better life for your children. Education is more than going to school and learning, it is knowing you are beyond blessed for the opportunity to go to school, to learn. Education is finding life in the wisdom we seek.

“and he has filled him with the Spirit of God, with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge and with all kinds of skills” Exodus 35:31

Education is life.

Education is knowing there is more to this life, knowing Jesus died on the cross to wash away my sin. Knowing Jesus loves me, knowing God is looking out for me, knowing the Spirit is breathing life into me. Education is value, it is wisdom, it is life.

This time, I am running for life. I am running for education and whatever that might mean to you, but for me, it means life. For me, it means coming to Haiti. It means realizing there is freedom in my beliefs, there is freedom in Jesus, wisdom in education and life in wisdom.

As I ran my six miles yesterday, I found myself needing to recall the reason I am doing this run. In the heat, struggling to put in the miles, to wake up early, to run up that hill (because everything is up, even when you are going down, you’re still going up). I remembered my education. The life lessons I have learned, the life I was born into where education was not an option, but a requirement-given to ALL. Haiti is so different. Education is not for all. Freedom is not for all. The gospel is not for all; it has not yet reached every house hold, every ear, every soul. I took so much for granted growing up in the states, but Haiti has taught me so much.

“The one who gets wisdom loves life; the one who cherishes understanding will soon prosper.” Proverbs 19:8

I think its perfect this run is happening around the Christmas season. Its perfect I am running to raise money for TeacHaiti (click here if you want to help me do that). It’s perfect that it’s hard and challenging and even up hill as so much of life can seem to be. It is perfect that this time I am running for life, not death.

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13

The Beauty of Roses

Often I reflect on my time in Haiti and think, man I want to write a book. I wrestle with writing a book when I know (or pray) my story is far from over. I have had a long journey over the last four years and have met some amazing people who I have written about. Most often I am reminded of them by Facebook’s stellar news feed. I often reflect on the people I have met here in Haiti when driving around; landmarks or restaurants reminding me of days gone by.

I know I have written about many of these people during my time over the years. I think of the difficult times I had, the days spent in prayer and uncertainty. Uncomfortable, hard days. Days when I now can look back and see the Lord at work. Days that were so overwhelming while I was in them, better days seemed far far away. Better days come and go, and I am grateful to know He has walked me through it all.

Sometimes I think back at those days and I can help but think, “How selfish am I.” How selfish am I to think my days were hard compared to those outside the gates of the various places I was so fortunate to lay my head down on. How selfish am I compared to the millions, starving, beaten, abused, broken, fighting their battle. Never have I gone to bed hungry or cold. Never have I gone to bed thinking, “God are you still there?”

The last four years has grown my faith in unmeasurable ways. Hardships I have experienced seem to be the thorn’s on the stem of flowers. If it weren’t for my thorns, I never would have come to the roses.

Facebook as I mentioned is a great reminder of the roses I have met over my time in Haiti. Today I was reminded of one woman in particular. I was staying temporarily at a guest house after what I thought was a devastating situation. I was reminded of God’s grace, how “we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28) I am not sure I will ever lose the childish amazement when the Lord reveals himself in these situations. Here I am years later and still blessed, still seeing God use situations for His glory.

Over my time at the guest house, I met Stephanie Bowman. Stephanie was serving on a team with her two daughters. In a time I was really missing my own mom, I found myself drawn to Stephanie. She opened up to me and told me her story; addicted to drugs, abused, pregnant, but in the end, she has conquered. Like myself, Stephanie’s story is far from over, but I am count myself blessed to meet such a woman. Stephanie’s story is still going strong. She has taken her difficult situation and has turned it around to help others. She gives back to those who are not yet able to help themselves. Completely aware of what life can be like for women, Stephanie had a dream, a dream to impact the lives of others.

Stephanie started One Heart for Women and Children in Orlando, Florida. An organization that impacts about 1,000 people a month. People who are struggling, suffering and hurting. I think of how I show the love of the Lord to others and again I think, “How selfish am I?” How selfish am I when things get hard. My life is a dream compared to some. It does not fall on me how very blessed I am. My job, my family, my friends, my home-all filled with joy. I have people to turn to who have my best interest and happiness at heart; people who shower me with gifts and love and fill my heart with joy daily.

I am ever grateful for the reminder of people like Stephanie who are doing such big things for humanity and for His Kingdom and His glory. Stephanie, who doesn’t know it, has helped me to remember how blessed I am by her efforts to bless others. She is a continual reminder of how to be a disciple of the Lord, a true servant. Stephanie, who selflessly gives her love to strangers. Stephanie who was a rose to me when I was stuck in a thorn bush, who continues to be a rose and an inspiration to me.

I am grateful for the trials and welcome the difficult days, because it is from the bushes of thorns that we enjoy the beauty of roses.

and if you happen to be in the Orlando area, be sure to drop in and lend a hand.

http://www.mynews13.com/content/news/cfnews13/news/article.html/content/news/articles/cfn/2014/4/27/everyday_hero_stepha.html

The Choice

I know it has been a while since I have posted…sorry. The school year is winding down and at Quisqueya I work a lot with the seniors who are preparing to go off to college. I think many of the posts over the next few weeks will be about the seniors, again….sorry.

As I am able to sit in on the senior Bible class today, Robbie is Skyping in with an old mentor, Fred Grooms, who is launching his book today “Who’s in charge of Bob?” I can’t help but wonder if the kids understand the teaching opportunity playing out in front of them; the classroom that is removed from a text book.

Skype from Haiti

Skype from Haiti

“We are each given gifts and talents. How are you using them? Just because you are good at something, that does not mean you are called to do it.” Life brings us around to where we are supposed to be. “Broaden your view of what it means to be talented” Fred said. As I am preparing for this years 11th grade retreat I reflect on this time last year. As teachers we are gifted with the unique opportunity to be a part of this crucial time in students’ lives. They are exploring their talents and gifts, coming into who they are as people.

There is heaps of talent in this room. This group of kids is going place. They are going to be adults for starters. Watching them grow this past year has been a joy. The teaching moments at Quisqueya are in abundance and I am sitting in the midst of a golden one. I find myself in awe of God, in awe of how He has used my gifts and talents to bring me to this exact spot.

I have many prayers for the students here, many prayers for the seniors we are about to send off. Fred talked about the choices we are given; “Choice. The thing I keep coming back to is choice.”

The future is full of choices. Day after day after day, the friends we have, the colleges we go to, if we want to buy that shirt, sleeping in or getting up and going to class or church. The choice is yours. Are you going to go to class and be all there? Are you going to work through the issues with your roommate or blow up and walk away? The choices we are making are making you who you are, you are each beautiful, unique and a gift from God. I can’t help but wonder as it is discussed with the speaker about their ultimate choice. “If we say yes to Christ, that means we are saying no to some other things.” Such a powerful statement and a good reminder.

If we made that choice, we still have to choose what we are going to do with it. Are we going to choose to the impact the world for the glory of His kingdom or are we going to say thank you for my salvation and all these blessings OR are we going to make the choice to profess our faith by how we love and live every day?

Are we rooted in Him? Is our faith enough? Are we truly grateful for our salvation?

There is so much I want to say to this years seniors. As you head out into the world, know I will always worry about you. Know I will always be here for you. Know the future is ahead of you and it is YOURS for the taking. God will use each and every one of you in ways you will never imagine. No Bible class, retreat, transitions class, or lecture will ever prepare you for life. Life prepares you for life. Don’t miss the moments ahead by making the wrong choices.

Hiking in Haiti: Seguin

This past weekend I got to take part in one of the many perks of my job. I was one of the chaperones of an annual weekend trip here at Quisqueya Christian School to the mountains of Seguin. I have been on some beautiful hikes here in Haiti, but never as far as Seguin. As Student Activities Adviser, part of my role here at QCS is to plan trip such as this one. I have to say I learned a lot through trial and error…

Like having the donkeys sent down and a price negotiated ahead of time…oops. But, like everything in Haiti, we figured it out without much stress (and with the help of one of our amazing parents)! Loading all of our bags onto donkeys we set off for what we thought was an eight mile hike.

The sound of laughter, the excitement that can not be contained on your face, life is full of blessings…

The groups were spread out over the hike, but with a route carved into the side of the twisting mountains we were able to see one another, even those a mile or so ahead of us! I am still not sure if looking up was a good thing or not at times; looking up and seeing mountains as far into the distance as you could and hearing “we are going over that mountain”

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Such beauty.

“Umm, Im sorry, but WHAT?!?!?” is what I was thinking in my head. Trying not to show my complete exasperation and exhaustion to the students we were trying to encourage. “Oh yeah guys, we totally got this!!”

The whole trip was breathtaking to say the least (and yes, I do mean that both ways). I tried many times to capture the views in a photo, coming up short every time. There are sights of this country that are something only to be seen with the eyes, no photo will ever do it justice. As I stood eye level with clouds, I looked around to mountains on every side as far as I could see.

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I mean, hopefully we do…

There were no cars, no noise and stifling air of the city; only beauty, beauty beyond words. Blessings beyond compare…

As we huffed and puffed up, I made sure to try to point out and appreciate as much beauty and blessings from God as I could. Every flower, every berry and tree, little huts made of stone, every rock. It was all beautiful.

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But none of it was as beautiful as my seniors. They are so special to me and I am so proud of them. Coming up a two mile hill (9 miles in) and meeting the front group coming back down to help the rest of us, what a blessing. They were encouraging to one another, cheered each other on and waited until every one of their classmates made it to the top.

Before arriving at our destination, we had a three mile hike through the pine forest. It was a necessary break for our feet and legs after nearly nine miles of up, up and more up (in case you are bad at math like me, what we thought was an eight mile hike was actually a little more than 11-oops!)

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Beauty is everywhere.

The horses, grass on our feet, waterfalls, the music of nature; more blessings, everywhere blessings…

After settling in and taking the coldest shower I think I have ever taken in my life we gathered together for a meal, debrief and devotion. Over the course of the weekend we read through and discussed the entire book of Ecclesiastes. We focused our weekend on wisdom and leaving for college with wisdom in the hearts of our students. Here at Quisqueya I am blessed to have the opportunity to continually speak wisdom and truth into the hearts of our students.

Learning with my students, watching them understand, falling in love with God each day; more blessings….

During our first debrief everyone went around and shared one thing they enjoyed about the day. I so love hearing the way our students care for and about one another.

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The second day a causal hike to a waterfall and cave turned into an extreme three mile adventure down a river bed.

“Since no one knows the future, who can say what is to come?” Ecclesiastes 7:29

Although I was worried at times, like when the water was up to our shoulders, it turned out to be an amazing time for our students! I can’t imagine the day going any better. I love the plans the Lord has that far exceeds ours. The debrief that night was one of my favorite moments, asking the kids “Where did you see God today?” I loved their answers, but mine was my favorite. I saw Him in you! In your strength and enjoyment, your complete appreciation for the beauty around you.

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I am blessed by each of you.

They took the time to look around and appreciate the moss and the water. They took the time to stop and wait for each other, to help one another down the river. I am so proud of the people they are becoming and honored to be a part of their stories in a small way.

It is the company we surround ourselves with that make us who we are. Our experiences, our reactions, our joys and laughter together, how we conduct ourselves in difficult situations. We set the bar high for ourselves and for those around us.

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I am proud of you all!

Ecclesiastes gives us much wisdom and I am grateful to have shared that with our students and those with me in the mountains. Be joyful in your day. In the warm hike through a wooded forest and in the freezing river. Be grateful in your day. In the sights of the mountains around you and in the road that never seems to stop going up or ending. For there is much to learn from every situation.

“When times are good, be happy;

but when times are bad, consider;

God has made the one as well as the other.

Therefore, you cannot discover

Anything about your future.” Ecclesiastes 7:14

Speaking of love.

This weekend I was reminded of the power of love through the power of our words. Often we get caught up in our busy day to day lives, we can forget to tell someone we love them. We can forget the power in speaking these words to others.

Have you ever stopped to focus on someone else in the middle of your day? Written them a note or dropped them an email or text just to say “Hey dude, thinking about you. Love ya.”

Well, let me tell you, I have been on both ends of that message and as the receiver during a time of need, it was greatly appreciated. I have been reminding my students about the power of their words. We never know what another person is going thru…

…when they might need to hear “Hey, thinking about you today.” Or “Love ya.”

Maybe moving away from my family has brought my appreciation of words to a new level. Or maybe it is from the loss of so many loved ones, so many things left unsaid.

I try hard to never go to bed mad, to never leave things unsaid.

The power of our words is important. Love, honesty, sincerity. Kindness matters, and it just might be your words that are a breaking point in some one else’s life.

I hope we can all choose the words that show the love of Christ today.

Before you speak, think. Be selfless. Show kindness. Love with your words.

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” Colossians 2:13

Thankful for friendships near and far who help me understand the power of love through their words.

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To my cousins, I love you crazy fools!!!

ImageTo my best friend, I’m here…I love you.

ImageTo my brother, I am so proud of the man you are, I love you.

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To my roomie, thank you will never be enough, I love you.

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To the friends of my soul, thank you for showing me the meaning of friendship.

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To those who are left out…

to the twins and lynds, all of my moms and dads, peanut in Minnesota, the one whos home shares a wall, shares a name, share my blood, to those who have crossed my path today, yesterday and tomorrow…

you are in my heart and I love you. I am no further from you than across the water.

Follow my story and journey in Haiti

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